In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Robyn Hitchcock has always viewed the world about one-quarter off-kilter. Where he lives, it rains like a slow divorce and the sun is underground; other residents have arms of love and lightbulb heads, and the dead are just as desirable as the living. Some would say Hitchcock is touched in the head; others, that he’s touched with genius. One thing’s certain: if you listen to his music with an open mind and an open heart, you’ll find it touches you as well.
And we haven’t even gotten to his covers yet…
In concert, Hitchcock regularly presents the music that inspired him, and you never know if you’ll hear his deeply affecting version of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” or a straight-faced take on George McCrae’s smash from the pre-disco-scene era, “Rock Your Baby.” Either way, he gives all his covers his all, and his audiences are the richer for hearing them. Now’s the chance for you to enrich yourself, with these five gifts from Robyn to you.
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock – Eight Miles High (The Byrds cover)
Hitchcock may indeed be “stranger than known,” but he knows how to bring back the spirit of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” Rather than put his own stamp on it, he clears away the cobwebs from the original and buffs its adventurous zing to a high gloss.
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock – Copper Kettle (Albert Frank Beddoe cover)
Hitchcock’s use of wildly random imagery rivaled Bob Dylan’s at his peak; it’s no surprise that Hitchcock is a huge Dylan fan, one who’s released an entire album of Dylan covers. Here’s one of Dylan’s covers that doesn’t get a lot of attention, trapped as it is on Dylan’s ignoble Self-Portrait; Hitchcock does “Copper Kettle” a great service by providing it a much-needed new context and maybe giving his cult their first chance to hear the song without feeling a hint of shame.
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock – New Age (The Velvet Underground cover)
“New Age,” Lou Reed’s tender paean to the almost-forgotten fat blonde actress, gets the Hitchcock treatment and comes out just as kind, just as compassionate, and just as classy. (Speaking of the Hitchcock treatment, rumor has it the song is about Vertigo‘s Kim Novak.)
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock – The Ghost In You (Psychedelic Furs cover)
“The Ghost In You” has beauty and power in its construction that no amount of synthesizers and drum machines can obscure, try though they may. Hitchcock recognized the song for the masterwork it was and helped other see it that way as well with this acoustic performance.
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock – Kung Fu Fighting (Carl Douglas cover)
Hitchcock has fun with “Kung Fu Fighting” live, but give him time in a studio and he really pulls out all the stops. A chorus of a capella Hitchcocks squawk and whistle and percuss, in a way that’s a little bit frightening, but is done with expert timing. Meanwhile, Robyn spins the tale of funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung in a way that meets two definitions of the word wry: “dryly humorous” and “abnormally twisted.”
The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock is always worth a visit.